By Keshab Poudel
Yog Tamang, 36, a resident of Goljung Village Development Committee of Rasuwa district, 100 miles north of capital Kathmandu, had never realized that one day he will host tourists in his home and make money.
This became true in his life as Yog has already made some money from the tourists. After building basic infrastructures like drinking water, stone-paved road and improvement of their home and hygienic conditions, villagers of Goljung like Yog Tamang are now in a position to provide shelter to a couple of tourists under a home stay program.
In the last one year, Tamang has already hosted a dozen of tourists in his home generating cash income of about Rs.8000 (USD 125). “Along with shelter, I offered tourists Dal bhat (rice and pulse) and vegetable in lunch and soybean and corn and milk for breakfast,” said Tamang who charges up to Rs.400 (less than $6) a day for all meals and shelter.
With per capita income below one US dollar a day, the residents of northern remote parts of Rasuwa like Yog Tamang have little option for improvement of their livelihood. As the terrain is steep and weather is unfavorable for agriculture, tourism is an easy way to generate income. Although annually a large number of tourists visit Langtang areas for trekking, the villages like Goljung, Getlang and Chillime, which have many important sites to see hardly get any tourist. According to Tourist Information Center, 4000 tourists visited the area last year.
“Our programme is highly successful in Rasuwa district. I am very happy that all eight political parties’ leaders hailed our programme. This indicates success of programme which brings many changes in the area. We have developed Tamang Heritage Trail as a new product where tourism will benefit the poor communities of the district,” said Rabijung Pandey, National Programme Manager of TRPAP. “The programme helped to build the rural infrastructures, institutions mobilising local communities for the benefits of poor,” said Pandey.
Although Trishuli Somdang highway linked these villages more than two decades ago and tourists started to come to Langtang on trekking, residents of northern parts of Rasuwa had not seen any change in their livelihood. Surviving on a subsistence-based farming and living in most unhygienic place, their per capita is among the lowest in the region. According to District Development Committee Rasuwa, four northern remote villages Getlang, Goljung, Chillime, Briddim and Thuman are most underdeveloped parts of the district.
“Though being the nearest Himalayan district from the capital city Kathmandu and linked by the national highway, the living standard of the people of the district is very miserable witnessing Nepalese Rs. 7,111 (USD 130) per-capita,” said Binod Kumar Singh, district development officer. “Despite the present poor human development index, the future prospect of the district seems very bright and optimistic.” According to recent study, Nepal’s per capita income is over USD 270.
When the people of these northern villages were searching a way out to fight against poverty, the implementation of Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Programme in (TRPAP) August, 2002 came as a boon to the local residents.
“The goal of the programme is to contribute to the poverty alleviation objective of the government through review and formulation of policy and strategic planning for sustainable tourism development that are pro-poor, pro-environment and pro rural communities and pro-women,” said Pandey, National Program Manager TRPAP.
From dissolution of local elected bodies to the dissolution of House of Representatives and intensification of Maoist insurgency, TRPAP implemented its programme in politically volatile and instable period in Nepalese history.
Because of Maoist insurgency, the project faced many difficulties in the initial period of implementation. Now even the Maoists are demanding the extension of the programme. Based on the community based approach, TRPAP is one of the popular programmes in Rasuwa and other five districts.
“We want the extension of this programme because this is a transparent and pro-poor programme,” said Rasuwa district CPN-Maoist leader Sameer. “We would like to request concerned parties to extend support to the programme as this is a transparent and effective programme.”
Despite their differences over the political and many other issues, district leaders of eight political parties have common voice on the programme. “We will go to center to press the government to extend it,” said CPN-UML leader.
TRPAP’s proves as one of the popular programmes not only in Rasuwa district but all 48 villages of 6 districts where it has been implemented. In the last six years, the project has covered 28,000 people and total beneficiaries of the project are 160,000.
For the district of Rasuwa, the project has brought not only infrastructures but the project also contributed to develop Tamang Cultural Heritage Trail as a new tourism product which has all components to attract tourists.
“With the technical and financial support granted from DFID, UNDP, SNV-Nepal through TRPAP, DDC Rasuwa has been able to efficiently implement the rural tourism programme in the northern part of the district. A new tourism product called Tamang Heritage Trail has been developed and promoted comprising the settlement of the poor people in Getlang, Chillime and Goljung area,” said LDO Binod Kumar Singh. “The implementation of TRPAP programme passed through the very critical period. Some positive impact of the programme has been seen in the area and full impact of the programme will be seen in coming days.”
Adventure Sports Tourism
Northern parts of Rasuwa have also immense potential to start adventure sports tourism. Small valleys and high mountains, all these are enough to attract adventure tourism. When two dozen mountain-bikers started their competition in Syaphrubesi covering three villages Getlang, Chillime and Goljung and Syaphrubesi, Rasuwa also showed that it has a potential for adventure sports tourism. With beautiful mountain range of Himalayas including Gosainkunda and Langtang, Ganesh and other peaks, Rasuwa’s northern part has many products for tourism.
Promoted by Nepal Tourism Board and Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Programme and organised by Himalaya Expeditions a leading private Nepalese agency for adventure sports tourism, the first Mountain Bike Race on the Tamang Heritage Trail opened the potential of these areas to promote adventure tourism.
“There are immense potential to promote Rasuwa for adventure tourism but we are unable to exploit them because of lack of promotional marketing. Our collaboration with TRPAP will definitely help us develop this area for adventure sports tourism,” said Bikram Pandey, managing director of Himalaya Expeditions.
Participated by 26 professional bikers including a foreigner, the bikers crossed 25 kilometer of Tamang Trail. Suresh Kumar Dulal secured the first place completing the race in 2 hrs 11 minutes. Surendra Rai finished at second place followed by Padma Sambahan.
“These areas can be sold out as a new product in international tourism market,” said Lila Baniya, chief of sustainable tourism unit of Nepal Tourism Board. “There will be more tourists in the area in the future.”
TRPAP’s message is that tourism can be best way to fight against poverty in the country’s like Nepal.